The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Matt Busekroos

HILLARY CLINTON ABC News' Gary Langer: " Jam For Christie, Clear Lane For Clinton In An Early Look At The 2016 On-Ramp" Chris Christie's popularity has been badly dented and Republican preferences for president look like a six-car pileup in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. In the Democratic lane, Hillary Clinton is well-positioned for 2016 - but has seen her own popularity pull back. Just 35 percent of Americans see Christie favorably overall, dropping from 52 percent in a Gallup poll in June, while his unfavorable score has doubled to 40 percent. He's gone from a 32-point net positive rating last summer to a 5-point net negative now - never a comfortable place for a public figure. And he's notably weak among strong conservatives, a core Republican group. LINK

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Scott Clement: " For 2016, Hillary Clinton Has Commanding Lead Over Democrats, GOP Race Wide Open" Hillary Rodham Clinton holds a commanding 6 to 1 lead over other Democrats heading into the 2016 presidential campaign, while the Republican field is deeply divided with no clear front-runner, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Clinton trounces her potential primary rivals with 73 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, reinforcing a narrative of inevitability around her nomination if she runs. Vice President Biden is second with 12 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) is third with 8 percent. LINK

PRESIDENT OBAMA The Hill's Amie Parnes and Justin Sink: " Obama Begins Trip To Boost 2014 Agenda" President Obama on Wednesday began a two-day tour of the Rust Belt intended to capitalize on momentum the White House believes built out of his State of the Union address. Administration officials and Democratic strategists said Obama had accomplished the main goal of his speech: a slight of hand by which the president outlined a populist platform for Democrats to run on in 2014, without sharpening his rhetoric into the familiar partisan bickering that has left the nation wary of Washington. One White House aide said Obama had succeeded in conveying an "optimistic plan of action." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Christi Parsons: " Obama Takes Agenda On Tour, Urging Boost In Minimum Wage" He has taken to saying he has a pen and a phone that he can use to work around Republicans in Congress, but President Obama also has a jet and a helicopter. He used them both Wednesday as he set off on a two-day traveling sales tour to promote his State of the Union agenda to increase economic mobility for American workers, stopping first at a Costco store in Lanham, Md., just outside the Beltway, and then at a U.S. Steel plant here. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Michael R. Crittenden and Colleen McCain Nelson: " Obama's Plan To Raise Minimum Wage Stalled Is In Crongress" President Barack Obama's call to raise the federal minimum wage faces dim prospects in Congress, with no clear path surfacing so far for the proposal to win approval even in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Congressional aides said Wednesday it is unlikely the Republican-led House would take up the issue, a central element of Mr. Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday, unless the Senate acted first. But no Senate Republicans have stepped forward to back the wage increase. LINK

The New York Times' Peter Baker: " Touring States, Obama Pushes Modest Agenda" As President Obama took to the road on Wednesday to promote an "opportunity agenda" that he vowed to enact with or without Congress, lawmakers began sorting through issues on which they may yet come together during what promises to be a treacherous midterm election year. Mr. Obama began a two-day, four-state, campaign-style swing aimed at building support for a series of relatively modest executive actions on wages, retirement and education. But there were also signs that he may avoid major clashes over raising the national debt limit and other issues that have provoked some of the fiercest skirmishing of recent years. LINK

NSA / EDWARD SNOWDEN The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger: " Top Intelligence Official Assails Snowden And Seeks Return Of N.S.A. Documents" The nation's top intelligence official on Wednesday delivered a scorching attack on Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, and called on him and his "accomplices" to return the trove of classified documents he took from the N.S.A. James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told lawmakers that Mr. Snowden's disclosures had done grave damage to the country's security and had led terrorist groups to change their behavior to elude American surveillance. LINK

Politico's Hadas Gold: " Clapper Refers To Snowden 'Accomplices'" In a statement seemingly directed at journalists, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Wednesday called on NSA leaker Edward Snowden and his "accomplices" to return the rest of the documents in their possession. "Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security," Clapper said at a Senate hearing. LINK

FOREIGN AFFARIS The New York Times' Michael Gordon: " U.S. Says Russia Tested Missile, Despite Treaty" The United States informed its NATO allies this month that Russia had tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, raising concerns about Moscow's compliance with a landmark arms control accord. American officials believe Russia began conducting flight tests of the missile as early as 2008. Such tests are prohibited by the treaty banning medium-range missiles that was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, and that has long been viewed as one of the bedrock accords that brought an end to the Cold War. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Yaroslav Trofimov: " Hard-Line Taliban Leaders Exploit U.S.-Afghan Rift" A rift between Kabul and Washington has empowered hard-line Taliban commanders at the expense of more moderate leaders who had pushed for peace talks, further reducing the prospect of a negotiated settlement to the 12-year war. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's decision in November not to sign a security deal with the U.S. has led to a power shift within the insurgency's leadership, bolstering the senior commanders who have pursued a military victory, according to senior officials and people close to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. LINK

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM The New York Daily News' Leslie Larson: " Rep. Grimm Apologizes To NY1 Reporter Michael Scotto, Schedules Lunch To Pay Penance" Rep. Michael Grimm called NY1 reporter Michael Scotto on Wednesday to apologize after the congressman hurled threats at the journalist Tuesday night. Grimm told Scotto he "overreacted" when he threatened him with physical violence for bringing up an ongoing federal investigation of the Congressman's campaign finances. "I was wrong," Grimm said in a statement issued later Wednesday. LINK

FARM BILL USA Today's Raju Chebium: " Farm Bill Would Allow Hemp Cultivation In Some States" Farm legislation breezing through Congress could make northern Colorado the nation's leader in the cultivation, study and use of industrial hemp. The farm bill provision authored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would allow colleges, universities and state agriculture agencies to grow and do research on the crop without being penalized by the federal government. LINK

DEMOCRATS Politico's Alex Isenstadt: " Democrats: Cede The House To Save The Senate" With Democrats' grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous - and the House all but beyond reach - some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can't be won and go all in to save the Senate. Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP's way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency. LINK

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